Steve Rafferty at RingCentral explains that as we enter a new year, businesses are putting the wheels in motion for more virtual operations.
While headlines are rife with the new Omicron variant, the UK braces itself for another tough season. As a result, businesses must continue to do what they can to uphold company culture in an online capacity. And they must do this while ensuring they put measures in place to keep their workforce safe.
While the pandemic shows we can’t predict what’s coming, there are a few trends you should be aware of to help better prepare.
Voice as a Vector for Human Connection
While video communications became hugely popular for teams looking to connect face-to-face, voice calls also proved tremendously valuable. Our recent survey revealed that 64% of Brits believe they can successfully build personal relationships with co-workers without ever physically meeting them.
Three quarters of these workers (77%) believe those that use voice communications will be more connected to each other.
Many of us enjoy connecting in person, but businesses should be aware of video call fatigue. Leaders, managers and all workers must balance meetings they can do effectively over the phone and those that need to be conducted by video call.
Foundational, quality telephony should be a key priority for businesses, especially as they increasingly look to combine collaboration, instant messaging, VoIP and video calling into one platform.
Reliability is key, so it’s important to seek out the well-established UCaaS providers that offer at least 99.999% high-availability uptime. That’s the equivalent of 26 seconds of downtime each month.
The Great Office Overhaul
It’s reasonable to expect that the traditional office space might take a different form.
For workers willing to return to the office or commute for part of their working week, business leaders must be willing to offer more than just the opportunity to work under the old strip lighting again.
With hybrid working being the norm for many workers, organisations might redesign their office as a more collaborative space. These new spaces will likely focus less on dedicated permanent desk space for every employee.
For example, companies like Dropbox introduced the concept of Dropbox Studios. The studios encourage more fluid, in-person collaboration with colleagues.
We’ll see a lot of UK businesses tweak their office space to fit a more flexible working lifestyle.
Giving Power Back to the People
Before the pandemic, business leaders had a lot of control, monitoring 9-5 hours and advocating archaic attitudes to overtime and presenteeism. But workers now have different values because of the global health crisis.
As we all re-evaluated our priorities and our approach to work-life balance, there was a somewhat imperceptible shift in power. Employees quit their jobs in favour of a new career, sought freelance work or cut their hours to spend time with family.
Whether business leaders like it or not, we’re looking at a workers’ revolution in the face. As employers panic amidst the great resignation, talented workers mould their future, favouring a more flexible working lifestyle.
As almost a quarter of workers prepare to change roles in the next few months, businesses must adhere to employees’ needs and desires for flexibility or risk losing their key talent.
Centring in on Security
One huge issue that has come about due to home working and the shift to a hybrid model is security. That’s because more data and critical organisational information are shared virtually than ever before.
With more business comms playing out virtually, all communications data will become increasingly valuable and vulnerable.
As IT leaders have a huge task on their hands monitoring a bigger network of devices and endpoints, businesses must be even more selective when it comes to their suppliers’ security processes and protocols.
When it comes to video conferencing, or collaborations solutions, business leaders must look for communications providers that offer end-to-end encryption, sophisticated access controls, and better controls over meeting attendees.
In addition to this, as the most recent IBM Cost of Data Breach Report claims that the average cost of a data breach is $1.07 million higher when remote work is involved, IT leaders must focus on driving better employee education around cybercrime.
Welcoming a Wellbeing Revival
While improving technologies enable colleagues to collaborate and operate remotely, they have also increased employees working overtime and burning out.
You should ensure that collaboration tools are there to support your employees, not create a culture of unhealthy work-life balance.
Businesses would be well advised to revisit employee wellbeing soon and ensure staff are happy with flexibility levels. That involves implementing a collaboration app that offers features that help you limit work hours, allow employees to update their status for work, disconnect when needed and implement boundaries.
What’s more, businesses may discover they could use technology to enhance the employee experience. Our recent survey showed that 63% of 21-24-year-olds and 34% of 45-54-year-olds say remote working has made them feel isolated.
With a split between colleagues working from home and others based in the office, organisations could tap into new technologies to help flag concerns and promote more meaningful human connections.
Net Zero and the New Workplace
Net Zero goals are set to impact all industries and areas of business. This means organisations will need to rethink how workers meet and communicate.
As 65% of workers prefer to do undesirable activities than commute, we’ll see even more of an argument in favour of remote working to reduce carbon emissions.
Employees are becoming even more conscious of their environmental impact. Therefore minimising commute time will become increasingly important for more reasons than just offering a better work-life balance. Offering better opportunities for home working will give corporates a chance to reduce carbon emissions for the long term.
Flexibility will be key for businesses as we navigate the ever-changing waters of the pandemic. Those willing to evolve with the times, listen to the needs of their employees, and build a culture of wellbeing and support, can expect a prosperous year ahead.